Succession and elections

14 01 2023

Singapore’s Mothership reports on a talk by Chulalongkorn University’s Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang who (bravely) asserted:

One of the biggest concerns for the country would be the matter of succession. Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati, the eldest daughter of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, was hospitalised [PPT: she’s dead] and eventually put on life support after she collapsed while training her pet dog on Dec. 14 last year.”

He explained:

While the Thai palace has never declared Bajrakitiyabha as the successor to the throne, she has been widely assumed to be next in line for succession.

“She studied law, she’s intelligible, approachable, and well-loved by many of the elite community,” Khemtong said, while “Prince Dipangkorn, the only male heir of [King] Vajiralongkorn, is said to be mentally challenged,” though Khemtong also stressed that as a “Thai person, [he] can neither confirm [nor] repudiate that accusation.”

We think that’s reasonably accurate, although Dipangkorn’s brief recent visit to Thailand suggested that there may have been some quick rethinking. In any case, dopey princes have previously become kings. It’s blood that matters.

His point is about the election:

“Now the king is in some kind of crisis. So the question is whether this crisis [will cast a] political shadow. Will we still have the election in May 2023?” Khemthong asked.

According to Khemthong, Thailand’s 2023 election is supposedly the biggest event of the year. It was expected to occur in May, but many believe the election might happen much earlier.

On the election:

Khemthong sounded pessimistic about the election, as he said, “The election will not be a transition. Actually, the election will help normalise this very unfree and unfair political arrangement of Thai politics.”

On linking palace and election:

But big questions remain. Given the Thai princess’s condition, how will the palace crisis affect this year’s election?

“The main question is that in times of crisis, will the palace resort to some extra-constitutional convention?” Khemthong asked. “At the very least, if there’s a state funeral, will it delay [the] election and for how long? And that’s the question that we don’t know the answer yet.”





Further updated: While we were away….

5 01 2023

It seems that a decaying regime and a largely tame mainstream media means that bizarre things happen and are reported as if they are “normal.” Likewise, some things – mostly to do with Article 112 are simply ignored. And then there’s the strangeness of The Family (the dysfunctional family that for many years has looked like something between The Addams Family and The Munsters but without much family togetherness or the good humor of those television families).

Obviously, the story that has been most difficult to comprehend is the death of Princess Bajrakitiyabha that the palace has not yet acknowledged. That story was scooped by Andrew MacGregor Marshall.

About three weeks ago the palace stated that, after a heart attack/aneurysm, her condition was “stable to a certain extent.” As the BBC added:

Medical bulletins from the royal palace in Thailand are typically vague and cryptic, and from the single statement issued about Princess Bajrakitiyabha, it is difficult to gauge how serious her condition is….

The statement says nothing about her state of health now. Some reports have suggested it is a lot more serious than stated.

Those reports stated that she was brain dead, being kept “alive” by machines. As the king’s favorite, her death is a personal blow, especially as she was only 44. It is not known why her death is not announced or even why there are no updates.

Meanwhile, millions of Thais are being regimented into “praying” for the princess’s miracle “recovery.” Uniformed Thais have led the “good wishes.”

Leaving aside the nutty stuff about what caused her demise, it does seem that succession has again become an issue. This seems to be based on assumptions that King Vajiralongkorn favored her. In fact, though, when succession was said to be in “crisis” a few years ago, it was Princess Sirindhorn who was the center of attention. Why she’s not in the mix now is not explained. Prince Dipangkorn is considered to have “health issues” (which royal doesn’t?) However, he’s now looking pampered, “handsome” to royalists, and must be a chance. But who knows?

A couple of points though. When there was last attention to a “succession crisis” and now, the one thing that has changed is that Bajrakitiyabha was the only full royal by blood. What hasn’t changed is that Dipangkorn is the only male (leaving aside the disowned lot in the USA). None of the royal princesses have male offspring and none of the female offspring seem intent on marriage and the production of offspring.

In the end, the dynasty seems to have reached its biological limits. Minor royals will be positioning themselves while more reasonable people would be looking to a republican future.

Update 1: A reader disputes that there are any “minor royals.” By “minor royals,” we mean those families that might claim royal blood from decades ago. There are still MRs and MCs around. Some of these have recently been seen in royal news undertaking royally-assigned tasks. The point is, as the reader acknowledges, in royalist Thailand, “anything is possible.” In that sense, some of the offspring in the USA might have royal thoughts.

Update 2: According to Prachatai, a new palace report has been released on Bajrakitiyabha. This time, the statement, released on 7 December, has it that “Princess Bajrakitiyabha collapsed due to severe cardiac arrhythmia relating to a mycoplasma infection. She is unconscious and is being given antibiotics, while her heart, lungs, and kidneys continue to be treated with medication and medical equipment.”





Article 110 trial to begin

15 11 2022

On 14 October 2020 during #14OctMob of “Khana Ratsadorn” rally, a group of protesters found themselves close to an unannounced royal motorcade, with a car carrying Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti. The car appeared to drive through the protesters, who shouted anti-royal slogans.

Several of the protesters were charged under the almost never used Article 110, which states:

Whoever commits an act of violence against the Queen or Her liberty, the Heir-apparent or His liberty, or the Regent or his/her liberty, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or imprisonment of sixteen to twenty years. Whoever attempts to commit such offence shall be liable to the same punishment.

If such act is likely to endanger the life of the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, the offender, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.

Whoever makes preparations for committing an act of violence against the Queen or Her liberty, the Heir-apparent or His liberty, or the Regent or his/her liberty, or does any act to assist in keeping secret any intention to commit such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment of twelve to twenty years.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reports that the “Criminal Court starts the witness examination of Black case number Aor.778/2564 on November 16, 2022. Five defendants are charged under Section 110 of Thailand’s Criminal Code on the ground of ‘violating the liberty of the Queen’.”

The five defendants include Akechai Hongkangwarn, Bunkueanun Paothong, Suranath Paenprasert
“and two other civilians who were indicted by the public prosecutor…”.

Of course, none of them violated the queen’s person or safety, but this is royalist Thailand.

All five defendants have denied all charges.

With the case now about to begin, there “are 51 prosecution witnesses and 11 defendant witnesses.” The trial is scheduled to run through the end of January 2023.

As TLHR explain:

This case is considered one of the most important case in Thailand’s political sphere as the penalty of this case is severe that the defendants could face 16 to 20 years, life time imprisonment or even death penalty for allegedly violating the Queen’s liberty and her well-being.





No transparency, royal privilege, corruption

21 09 2021

There’s been almost no mainstream discussion of how it is that a jumped-up royal plaything like the so-called Chulabhorn Royal Academy (CRA) became a player in the country’s virus vaccine program. That’s not unexpected in a country run by a dictatorial royalist regime. No discussion of the hows or whys. No discussion of appropriateness. And, no discussion of how this “institute” can traipse off and conclude contracts here and there with no public scrutiny.

That lack of transparency and scrutiny is why the “Academy” can be spoofed and used for corrupt activities. Sure, there have been other examples of corruption in the virus response, but this “Academy” is above scrutiny and investigation simply because it is the plaything of a self-indulgent royal.

But things got so bad, that the only body that can talk about corruption is the so-called academy itself. As The Nation reports, the “Academy” has gone to the Department of Special Investigation after it “learned about a group of fraudsters that has tricked people out of millions by posing as the Chulabhorn Royal Academy…”.

Academy deputy secretary-general Wanlop Yutithamdamrong “said the group had created fake CRA Line and Facebook accounts to dupe people into paying for their alternative Covid-19 shot. The group insisted all transfers be made via PromptPay, which is not used by the actual CRA.”

He claimed that the “fraudsters had stolen a list of people who had been vaccinated by hacking into a hospital’s system. The hospital, which is part of the CRA vaccination campaign, filed a complaint when it learned of the hacking.”

Sounding suspicious yet?

The Bangkok Post adds that the fraudsters had received “millions of baht.”

Wanlop tells us that the “Academy” has known of the scam for a very long time: “We obtained information that the scammers began using social media accounts to deceive people after the CRA imported the first lot of Sinopharm vaccines.” But guess what? “[W]e had no clear evidence against them. They talked to groups of people via the accounts about the acquisition of the vaccine and persuaded them to place orders and transfer payment, claiming the buyers would get the vaccine at a lower price than that set by the CRA…”.

The “Academy” is being scammed and there are fake websites and social media accounts but “no clear evidence.” Sounds suspicious to us.

As an aside, we noticed that in photos accompanying the reports of the DSI visit, the “Academy” people are wearing lapel badges of Princess Chulabhorn. We hadn’t seen these before – maybe we weren’t looking. Previously badges of Prince Dipangkorn designated being close to the king. It seems Chulabhorn has decided to develop her own labels of loyalty. They, too, can be scammed.

Previous cases of royal scamming have sometimes come to light and have led to lese majeste charges.





Two charged

24 04 2021

112Two are bailed, two are charged.

Two further lese majeste cases have been sent to investigation. Both seem part of an official and vigilante effort to drive people away from Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s commentaries that criticize and poke fun at the monarchy.

In the first case, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society has filed a complaint against a transgender woman for sharing a Facebook post by Pavin.

On 19 April 2021, Patchara, a pseudonym for a 22 year-old woman, attended the Technology Crime Suppression Division to hear the charges over her sharing of a Pavin post “that criticized the work of King Rama X…”. Her re-posting was on19 November 2020.

The police allege the re-posting constitutes an offense under Article 112 and was a breach of the Computer Crime Act. It was claimed that uploading information by Pavin criticizing the king was a threat to the kingdom’s security.

Patchara reportedly “denied the charge and will give further documentary testimony on 19 May. She also refused to sign the register for hearing the charge.”

According to Prachatai, “Patchara’s case is the 8th case of royal defamation filed by the MDES since the moratorium on using Section 112 ended in November 2020.”

The second case involves Pipat (surname withheld by request), a 20 year-old man who had to travel from his home in Lopburi to hear charges at the Bangkaew Provincial Police Station in Samut Prakan on 20 April 2021.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Pipat was charged for a post in Pavin’s Royalist Marketplace Facebook group. That group has over two million followers, almost all of them in Thailand.

The charge dates back to 28 May 2020, when someone named Umaphon Sunthonphot:

saw Pipat’s post on the Royalist Marketplace, a satirical Facebook group established by Pavin Chachavalpongpun. The post consists of a photograph of King Rama X and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti with a 2-sentence caption to the Prince’s photo, which Umaphon views as defamation, infringement or an expression of hostility against the King and the Crown Prince.

The police charged Pipat under the lese majeste law and the Computer Crimes Act.

Pipat has also denied the charges and “will submit documentary testimony within 30 days.” In addition, he asked:

…police to summon the plaintiff to give further details about how his post damaged her and how it was deemed wrongful according to the Section 112 of the Criminal Code. The police said that they would do so.

Police took Pipat to Samut Prakan Provincial Court for a temporary detention order. Pipat’s lawyer asked for bail “with 150,000 baht as security, citing the principle of presumption of innocence, the accused’s good cooperation with the police, and the effect that detention would have on his career and family’s wellbeing.”

The court granted bail, which was posted by “Ratsadorn Prasong, a donation fund used for bailing out pro-democracy protesters or sympathizers.”

Prachatai adds that “at least 87 people have been charged” with lese majeste since last November. We at PPT think it is more than this, but accurate information is difficult to come by.





Framing activists

1 04 2021

AP reports that prosecutors have “indicted five pro-democracy activists on Wednesday on changes of attempting to harm the queen during a street demonstration last October in which some protesters shouted slogans critical of the monarchy.”

The five stand “accused of violating Section 110 of the Criminal Code, which says that whoever attempts an act of violence against the queen or the royal heir faces 16-20 years’ imprisonment.” This is another law “protecting” the monarchy, and this is, as far as we know, its first use in recent years.

As AP points out, there was no violence and “Queen Suthida … was not in any evident danger in the incident, which occurred when a limousine carrying the queen and the king’s son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, passed through a small crowd of protesters mixed with supporters of the royal family.”

In other words, the protesters may have been set up and they are certainly being framed.

They include Akechai Hongkangwarn and Bunkueanun Paothong. It is reported that all “five deny any wrongdoing. After their indictment, they were released on bail of 200,000-300,000 baht ($6,400-$9,600) each.”





Palace PR at full throttle I

13 11 2020

The palace public relations machinery has long had to “manage” Vajiralongkorn’s “problems.” His explosive “divorces,” his erratic behavior and , and the rumors of violence, illnesses, philandering and associations with crime. Generally, the PR exercises revolved around strategies that had “worked” for his father.

The explosion of dissatisfaction with Vajiralongkorn that has been seen recently, reflecting tension over his neo-feudal absolutism, his bahavior and his preference for living in Germany, has seen a new twist on palace propaganda. This involves a rebranding of Vajiralongkorn and the younger royal family members as celebrities. This might be called the Hello! strategy. Obviously, this follows the model of royals in some other countries.

As PPT has said previously, we think this new PR strategy reflects the influence of the royal family’s younger women, including Queen Suthida, Princesses Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari, and some of the harem.

After rousing the raucous royalists in Bangkok, and getting good PR in Thailand (always expected and demanded) but also internationally, with that CNN interview contributing to an image of “compromise” and “popularity,” ignoring the king’s unsteadiness and giving him an instant free pass on all his previous black marks, the palace “influencers” have decided to have the king do “populist tours.”

Reuters reports that “Vajiralongkorn wrote messages of national unity and love on Tuesday during a visit to the northeast of the country two days after protesters sent him a letter demanding royal reforms that would curb his powers.”

In a PR stunt, the king wrote a message to the governor of Udon Thani province: “We all love and care for each other. Take care of the country, help each other protect our country with goodness for prosperity and protect Thainess…”. Going full-on celebrity on a “picture of himself and the queen … the king wrote”: “Love the nation, love the people, cherish Thainess, real happiness.” Another message stated: ““Thank you for all the love and support. We love and care for each other. We must take care of the country, and we must help each other protect it with virtue for it to prosper. Preserve the marvel of Thainess…”.

If the protests against the king have been unprecedented, so is the palace PR response, seeking to create a new image for the king. Previous efforts at this kind of image making have been undone by Vajiralongkorn’s inability to stick with the PR plan and messages.

As these reports of “good king” are being managed, there’s also been “bad king” reports. Hype (Malaysia) had this”

King Maha Vajiralongkorn was married to his third wife, Srirasmi Suwadee, in 2001, before divorcing her in 2014.

Since then, the ex-princess is currently under house-arrest and has decided to take on life as a nun.

Back in 2014, Srirasmi’s uncle, parents, sister and three brothers were convicted with several offences, including “lèse-majesté”, which is defamation to the monarchy. They were all sentenced to prison with different offences and Srirasmi got her royal title stripped of the same year.

As aforementioned, Srirasmi is under house arrest as she hasn’t been seen in public ever since she was forced to leave the royal house. As per China Press, Thai royal experts have exposed photos of the King’s third wife in white robes with her head shaved, as a sign of her nunhood, at her house in Ratchaburi province in central Thailand.

In the photos, she can be seen living a simple life of planting seeds and sweeping leaves in her backyard, despite previously living as a monarch. However, it might not be so simple for her as her eyes tell a different story.

According to SCMP, she was forced to leave her son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, who is the next in line for the throne after the king. There are photos on the internet of Srirasmi’s last meeting with her son before she was forced to leave the palace.

We’re unsure of the exact reason behind her sadness but being under house-arrest while separated from your child can definitely drain one’s mental health.

But the PR/propaganda rattled on. In a Bangkok Post report it is stated that the king “has been told that many red-shirt villages that used to support former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra are now sworn to uphold the monarchy.” Apparently, the person doing the telling was the queen: “They are from the red-shirt villages to protect the monarchy…” she said as she and the king were “mingling with supporters at Wing 23 of the air force in Udon Thani on Tuesday night.”

Of course, many millions of red shirts never considered Thaksin an enemy of the monarchy, but the queen seems to have taken this position. How does she know? For one thing, the yellow shirts constructed this narrative and clearly Suthida has imbibed the yellow shirt kool-aid. She’s had this view reinforced by the fawning betrayers of the red shirts, Anon Saennan and Suporn Atthawong, both of whom sold out to the rightists long ago.

The king appreciates the turncoats. The regime has rewarded Suporn with legal cases dropped and lucrative positions.

As the report states:

Mr Suporn was prosecuted for disrupting the Asean summit in Pattaya in April 2009, but the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship member evaded the charges because police could not find him before the case expired in April last year.

An earlier Post report adds further detail, stating that Suporn:

a vice minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office. His appointment to this political post is said to be a reward for his defection from Pheu Thai to the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party prior to the March 24 election.

We assume the regime and the military are pouring funds into the Suporn-Anon anti-red shirt campaign.





Reporting unprecedented events

14 10 2020

A quick, early morning (Bangkok time) scan of the major newspaper shows no reporting of the events where protesters confronted royals. Khaosod is the exception.

Police and/or military trucked in to act as royalist supporters. Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul and clipped from Bangkok Post

Perhaps that will change, but we imagine regime, monarchy and ruling class are shocked to see and hear protesters yelling “ai hia” at the passengers in a yellow, royal Rolls Royce (Queen Suthida and Prince Prince Dipangkorn. For ultra-royalists, it is monarchy or chaos. They will become frantic.

One immediate response is more charges and more arrests. Khaosod also reports that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has “ordered a “strict legal action without any exception” against protesters who allegedly blocked a royal motorcade…”.

For protesters it is monarchy or democracy.

 

 





Prince in Germany

24 05 2020

A couple of weeks ago, PPT posted on why it might be that King Vajiralongkorn prefers living in Germany rather than Thailand.

We thought that one of the reasons for preferring Germany might be that the king has had his son Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti in school there. While no one speaks about it, the 15-year old appears to have “learning difficulties.” His life in Germany is mostly private, although several videos of his life in Germany, with his father and friends have appeared.

Interestingly, several German media outlets have reported on the prince:

Prinz Dipangkorn: 5 Fakten über den künftigen König

Then Crown Prince and his kids from an earlier marriage

So leidet der kleine Sohn des großen Thai-Königs

These reports don’t say much that is worthy of translation, mentioning that he might be the king’s successor. It doesn’t mention the other boys.

It adds that he has no known connection with his mother, Srirasmi, having been ditched by  the king and essentially held under house arrest. There’s this:

According to press reports, Prince Dipangkorn lives in Tutzing on Lake Starnberg in Bavaria. There he also goes to school and has made many friends. In 2018, the palace published photos of its birthday party with its German classmates. Other pictures show him hiking in the mountains or cycling.

Most recently, it is the Daily Mail with a story. As usual, the paper has a long headline: Thai King Rama X’s son lives a life of ‘loneliness and rejection’ in German villa while his father spends lockdown with harem of 20 army ‘sex soldiers’ in nearby hotel.

The story cites Bild: “the little Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, 15, lives in a villa with a pool and a view over a lake, with two dozen servants.” It adds:

Last known photo of Dipangkorn and his mother

A former palace employee, who has not been named, told Bild: ‘Dipangkorn is autistic. That was definitely the reason why he came to Germany.

‘Maha Vajiralongkorn is ashamed of his son’s developmental disorder….

And continues:

As the King’s only legitimate son and thus the heir to the throne, Dipangkorn has been removed from the public eye and is on a ‘development program’, according to the German publication.

Rama X has reportedly been living in Germany since 2007.

Dipangkorn has been attending the Waldorf School in Wolfratshausen since 2011. He is said to speak German, with a Bavarian accent, better than he does Thai.

 





Why does the king prefer Germany?

9 05 2020

That’s the question asked by a recent article at an Australian outlet. It is a good question, and many Thais ponder it as well.

The article comments that:

Aside from the controversial decision to self-isolate in an entire hotel with a harem of women, King … Vajiralongkorn’s living arrangements continue to perplex the world.

And it mentions the recent protests against his loose “isolation” at the “Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl, an alpine, luxury hotel in Germany’s Garmisch-Partenkirchen precinct…”.

There are royals who live outside their country, but they are usually in exile; Vajiralongkorn is in a kind of self-imposed exile.

The report’s answers to its question is somewhat shallow. It notes that he owns a villa in Tutzing on Lake Starnberg, suggesting that the “12 million euro” property is “away from prying eyes…”. It concludes that “the King’s property investments could be a key reason he so regularly resides in Germany.”

That seems unlikely. After all, the majority of his vast fortune is property in Bangkok. That certainly doesn’t keep him there. In addition, the villa in Tutzing is not particularly private and the town is small. But it is in a beautiful and quiet location, looking across the lake to the Alps.

Another claim is that Vajiralongkorn’s “complicated love life” is “possibly … a reason for [him] frequenting the European country.”

That, too, seems unlikely. His women are all from Thailand and he could easily fulfill his carnal desires and manage his women there. He’s done this before.

While the article speculates in these ways it fails to consider other possible possible reasons. For example, the king has had his son Dipangkorn Rasmijoti in school in Germany for some time. While no one speaks about it, it seems that the 15-year old has “learning difficulties.” His life in Germany is mostly private, although several videos of his life in Germany, with his father and friends have appeared.

Another consideration is the king’s health. There have long been rumors about his health. Yet he seems a fit 67-year old, regularly bicycling, exercising and skiing. We might guess that the king feels fitter and healthier in Europe. Most of his family in Bangkok seem sickly and unfit when compared with him. Being on a decade-long holiday in a pleasant Bavarian environment that is less polluted than Bangkok works wonders!

We do know that the king plans to continue to make Germany his home, having demanded changes to the junta’s 2017 constitution to allow him to operate as king remotely.








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